The effect of homologous recombinant porcine growth hormone (r-pGH) on secondary fracture healing was investigated in a diaphyseal defect of the tibia in Yucatan micropigs. A 1 cm defect of the tibia was created surgically and stabilized with an AO 3.5 mm DCP plate. The treatment group (12 animals) received 100 microg of r-pGH per kilogram of body weight subcutaneously once per day, whereas the control pigs (12 animals) received 1 mL of sodium chloride as placebo. For evaluation of the GH-axis, serum levels of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) were sampled every fourth day. The animals were killed 6 weeks after surgery. Quantitative computed tomography (qCT) was performed to determine bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) of the defect zone. The torsional stiffness and the torsional failure load were measured by destructive torsional testing of the defect and contralateral tibiae. qCT measurements revealed a significant increase in the BMC of the defect zone in the treatment group compared with controls (GH BMC = 2833 +/- 679 mg, placebo BMC = 2215 +/- 636 mg; p < 0.05), whereas the BMD values were similar in both groups (GH BMD = 668 +/- 60 mg/mm(2), placebo BMD = 629 +/- 52 mg/mm(2), p = 0.12). Torsional failure load was 70% higher and torsional stiffness 83% higher in the treatment group than in the control group (p < 0.05). The mean serum level of IGF-I in the treatment group increased to 382% of the preoperative basal level and decreased to 69% in the control group, and this difference was highly significant (p < 0.001). Our data indicate that daily administration of recombinant GH leads to an increase of serum IGF-I levels and stimulates secondary fracture healing, resulting in increased mechanical strength and stiffness of the callus.